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Accident description
Last updated: 10 December 2017
Status:Final
Date:Friday 13 March 2009
Type:Silhouette image of generic B703 model; specific model in this crash may look slightly different
Boeing E-8C (707)
Operator:United States Air Force - USAF
Registration: 93-0597
C/n / msn: 19294/550
First flight: 1967-02-13 (42 years 1 months)
Crew:Fatalities: 0 / Occupants:
Passengers:Fatalities: 0 / Occupants:
Total:Fatalities: 0 / Occupants:
Airplane damage: Damaged beyond repair
Location:near Qatar (   Qatar)
Phase: En route (ENR)
Nature:Military
Departure airport:Al Udeid Air Base (XJD/OTBH), Qatar
Destination airport:Al Udeid Air Base (XJD/OTBH), Qatar
Narrative:
Boeing E-8C JSTARS, tail number 93-0597, assigned to the USAF 379th Air Expeditionary Wing, experienced a near catastrophic fuel tank over-pressurization during aerial refuelling. The mishap aircraft terminated its mission and returned to Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar. The crew and mission personnel evacuated the aircraft safely without injury.
The mishap occurred during operations in the Area of Responsibility (AOR). The mishap crew had begun aerial refuelling with a KC-135, when the mishap crew and personnel aboard heard and felt a loud bang throughout the midsection of the aircraft. The crew suspended refuelling to evaluate the aircraft to checkout their systems and evaluate the aircraft for any damage. Finding nothing apparently wrong, the crew re-latched to the tanker and attempted to continue the refuelling when another series of loud noises and vibrations were heard and felt throughout the aircraft.
Personnel aboard the KC-135 observed a stream of vapour and fuel streaming from the E-8 and alerted the crew. The crew checked for damage through a rear window and observed fuel streaming from at least two holes in the left wing, just inboard of the number two engine. The crew opted to terminate the mission and return to Al Udeid. Maintenance personnel then examined the airplane and found that the number two main fuel tank had ruptured, causing extensive damage to the wing of the airplane.

Probable Cause:

The Accident Investigation Board (AIB) President found, by clear and convincing evidence, that the mishap was caused when a civilian subcontractor employee inadvertently left a test plug in the fuel vent system of the Mishap Aircraft during recently completed Programmed Depot Maintenance (PDM) performed on the MA.

Additionally, the AIB President found by substantial evidence three factors which contributed to the mishap. First, the PDM subcontractor employed ineffective tool control measures. Second, the PDM subcontractor failed to follow Technical Order (TO) mandated procedures when employing the fuel vent test plug during PDM. Third, due to the relatively short period of time between takeoff and refuelling, the crew did not have the opportunity to burn a substantial amount of fuel from the number two fuel tank which could have allowed the dive "flapper" valve to open after the tanks excessive air pressure decreased to the point where the flapper valve would open.
This explains why this mishap did not occur during ARs conducted between the time the MA left the PDM facility and the time of the mishap.

Accident investigation:
cover
Investigating agency: USAF AIB
Status: Investigation completed
Accident number: Executive summary report
Download report: Summary report

Classification:
Forced landing on runway

Sources:
» Scramble 402


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This information is not presented as the Flight Safety Foundation or the Aviation Safety Network’s opinion as to the cause of the accident. It is preliminary and is based on the facts as they are known at this time.
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